Nondiscrimination | 

15 Ideas for Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Recent protests have drawn greater attention to inequality in our society and workplaces. In response to calls for change, many employers are reviewing and revamping their efforts to promote a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) work environment. Here are some ways to effectively implement inclusivity.

#1: Understand the issues.

Before developing an action plan for DEI, make sure you understand the relevant issues, including the root causes of discrimination, systemic problems that result in inequity, the differences between disparate-treatment and disparate-impact discrimination, and the effect of implicit and explicit biases in the workplace. Additionally, take an honest look at which groups are underrepresented in senior leadership and your workforce as a whole.

#2: Hold leaders accountable.

Make sure each manager, leader, and executive is responsible for DEI and hold them accountable during performance evaluations. Discuss DEI during leadership meetings and share feedback from employees. To demonstrate the importance of DEI to your company's culture, explain what actions you're taking to address inequality, and consider including it in your employer branding.

#3: Expand recruiting.

Relying on one or two recruiting methods may limit the quality and diversity of your applicant pool and increase the time it takes to fill the open role. Consider using multiple avenues to target communities that are underrepresented in your current workforce. For instance, build relationships with professional organizations, schools, and community organizations and attend conferences and job fairs that attract people of color.

#4: Craft job advertisements carefully.

Include an equal opportunity statement that demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion, and draft job advertisements and job descriptions with language that encourage all groups to apply. Avoid language that could be construed to indicate a preference based on age or another protected characteristic. For instance, "this job would be ideal for someone young/recent college graduate." If the pay is lower, you can say that the job is entry-level or simply list the wage or salary. Never assume a worker wouldn't be interested in a job based on their age or the salary offered.

#5: Avoid credential inflation.

Sometimes employers inflate the qualifications for a job in the hopes of finding top talent, often referred to as credential inflation. If your minimum qualifications exceed those needed for the position, it may be difficult to fill the role and you may be overlooking otherwise qualified candidates. For example, not every job requires a bachelor's degree, but many employers include it as a qualification regardless of the position. Inflating educational requirements may also undermine the value of on-the-job experience and important skills that are developed outside of the classroom. Further, the practice may lead to discrimination claims if it excludes certain protected groups who tend to graduate college at lower rates. To encourage more applicants to apply, many employers consider candidates with nontraditional profiles, such as those who are self-taught.

#6: Diversify your hiring committee.

Include a diverse group of individuals in the screening and selection process to help prevent biases from affecting hiring decisions. Train decision-makers to avoid basing decisions on explicit and implicit biases. If you use technology to help screen and select candidates, make sure the data it uses is accurate, job-related, and from a diverse pool. For example, if information about the background needed for a particular role is based solely on your current workforce, relying on such data may create a barrier for groups that are not already well represented in your workforce. Ensure all hiring decisions are reviewed and hold hiring teams responsible for identifying clear job-related criteria by which they will assess applicants.

#7: Consider "blind auditions."

Look for ways to introduce elements of "blind auditions" into your hiring process. For example, you can make it a policy to remove names when giving resumes and applications to the person who decides whom to call in for interviews. This can help reduce the potential for discrimination, since you're unable to act on any biases because the individual's identity is completely unknown.

#8: Evaluate screening and selection procedures.

Employment tests should be job-related and consistent with business necessity and shouldn't disproportionately exclude applicants in a protected class. If your selection process screens out a protected group, determine whether there is another test available that would be equally effective in predicting job performance. Before implementing pre-employment tests, it's a best practice to validate the tests for the positions and purposes for which you plan to use them (see the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures for information on validating tests). Review tests when job requirements change to ensure continued validity. Also, train decision makers on how to use the results effectively and closely monitor hiring decisions to spot any potential issues early.

#9: Avoid pay history and ensure fair pay practices.

If an employer uses a candidate's pay history to decide how much to offer them, it could perpetuate pay discrimination from a previous employer. That's why several states and local jurisdictions have enacted laws prohibiting employers from asking for or using pay history when making employment decisions. Even in the absence of such a law, consider avoiding these practices and instead use other methods to determine a new hire's pay (such as internal or external pay data). Additionally, ensure that employees are paid fairly when compared with other employees in your company and verify that your pay practices don't discriminate on the basis of any protected characteristic, such as sex or race. Work with your legal counsel to audit your pay practices regularly to make sure any disparities in pay are justified and lawful.

#10: Address microaggressions.

A microaggression is a statement, question, or action that subtly demonstrates hostility or discrimination against members of a marginalized group. An example of a microaggression is when an individual tells a black co-worker that they are "very articulate." This is viewed as a microaggression because it is rarely said to a white colleague and implies surprise or that it is noteworthy that a black person would be articulate. Another example is asking an Asian American employee "where are you from?" as if they aren't from America. Studies have shown that microaggressions can have a significant impact on the recipient's health, especially as they add up over the course of time. Employers can help address microaggressions by raising awareness through training, clearly indicating that they're prohibited in the workplace, investigating complaints, and responding appropriately when employees do commit microaggressions.

#11: Take all complaints seriously.

Take all discrimination complaints seriously and launch a prompt, fair, and thorough investigation. If an investigation reveals that a violation of your policies occurred, take immediate and appropriate corrective action to remedy the situation and prevent it from recurring. Address problems before they become severe or pervasive and administer your disciplinary action policy on a consistent basis regardless of who is involved. Make clear that you will not take any adverse action against employees who act in good faith to make a complaint or participate in an investigation.

#12: Give all employees development opportunities.

Discussing an employee's career interests and personal strengths can help make them feel valued. Even if your company doesn't have a lot of opportunities for upward mobility, you can still help employees develop skills and knowledge that will serve them and your business in the future. Assigning new responsibilities to help stretch an employee's skills or capabilities can be an effective way to develop their talents and increase engagement. Meet with each employee and discuss their short-term and long-term career goals. Create a development plan accordingly and follow-up regularly to check on their progress.

#13: Encourage ideas and feedback.

Solicit employee feedback about the work environment through regular employee surveys, one-on-one meetings, and exit interviews. During staff meetings, ensure that each employee who speaks is heard. When employees do share ideas and feedback, thank them and let them know you will take their suggestions seriously. Remember to recognize employees for their contributions and give them credit for ideas that are implemented.

#14: Train employees and managers.

Use training to show that discrimination and harassment are not only against the law but also against your company's values. Stress how important it is for you to maintain a fair workplace for all employees and applicants. Train employees on how to report incidents of discrimination and harassment. Some employers have gone a step further and adopted bystander intervention training to show employees not only how to spot inappropriate behavior but also how to step in and take action when needed.

#15: Review policies and practices.

At a minimum, ensure that policies and practices comply with applicable federal, state, and local nondiscrimination laws and are free of both implicit and explicit biases. For instance, blanket policies barring candidates with criminal convictions can disproportionately affect minorities and other protected groups and may violate federal and state law. And pay secrecy rules, which can be used to hide pay inequities, are generally prohibited. Additionally, think about whether your practices truly foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.


A diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment is not only the right thing to do but it can also result in new and innovative ideas and a more engaged workforce. Make sure your policies and practices are free of discrimination and effectively promote inclusivity.


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